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ClientEarth Communications

14th September 2023

UK

ClientEarth UK Manifesto: What we want to see from the next government

With the UK’s General Election on the horizon in 2024, all political parties have the chance to make bold and meaningful commitments to addressing the climate crisis and protecting nature and the environment.

That’s why we’ve put together our UK Manifesto, detailing what we want to see from the UK’s new government. The manifesto reflects the long-termist approach that politicians from across the political divide have already committed to in legislation but must now deliver on, through small changes to existing legislation, impactful new Bills, and further protections to the rule of law.

Our demands of the next Government would ensure not only a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but also a boost to the NHS, support to local communities and the people and nature living in them. 

Below is a summary of our demands. You can also download the full manifesto.

1. Introduce an Environmental Rights Bill

We want the UK to make the right to a healthy environment part of legislation. Doing so will mean it will comply with its obligations under the Aarhus Convention, an environmental agreement that grants the public rights regarding access to information, access to justice, and participation in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the environment.

We believe that by introducing a dedicated Environmental Rights Bill, the UK can ensure the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for everyone, and provide the means to protect and enforce it.

2. Align the Financial Sector to Net Zero goals

Getting transition plan regulation right is crucial. The UK’s ability to transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy is dependent on companies taking action to decarbonise their businesses, and corporate transition plans will ensure that UK markets fully take advantage of the opportunities of the transition and avoid the risks.

Legal duties of financial institutions must require them to use their influence to support investee companies making smart choices to reduce their environmental impact, support a just transition to net zero and generate sustainable long-term value. 

Classifying fossil gas as sustainable undermines the purpose of the taxonomy, by providing incentive for investing in activities that are inconsistent with science-based pathways to net zero, and allows the taxonomy to be used as a vehicle for greenwashing by fossil fuel companies.

3. End Corporate Greenwashing

We want a ban on fossil fuel advertising and the use of ‘offsetting’, so that companies are no longer able to mislead the public about their sustainability through so-called ‘green’ advertising.

It’s never been more urgent for companies everywhere to be more sustainable, and yet companies with significant responsibility for climate change and environmental damage mislead the public about their sustainability.

4. Foster Transparent and Sustainable Global Supply Chains

We want government legislation to ensure that all companies and financial institutions operating in the UK conduct due diligence to prevent, identify and mitigate the negative environmental and human rights impacts of their business and investment activities, and that they must disclose information about these impacts.

Many supply chains that feed the UK economy (such as supplies of mining, logging, agriculture and seafood/aquaculture products) cause severe environmental degradation and contribute to climate change.

Requiring companies and financial institutions to report on their environmental, climate and human rights impacts is an essential part of ensuring that they factor these impacts into their decision-making and disclose the risks to investors.

5. Put in place credible plans for meeting climate targets e.g. Net Zero

The UK should introduce binding resource use reduction targets, alongside stronger targets on reducing energy demand.

To reduce UK emissions, it is essential that we continue to shift our energy systems away from fossil fuels towards climate-neutral sources of energy while minimising the negative impacts of mining and energy infrastructure – both offshore and onshore – on biodiversity and people. We believe the UK’s current plan to continue reducing emissions is not fit for purpose, and needs to be made so.

6. Withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty

We want the UK to withdraw from this outdated treaty, which protects foreign investments in the energy sector.

The CCC (Climate Change Committee) has already called for the UK to withdraw from the ECT, which has been used by fossil fuel companies to sue international governments over their climate plans.

7. Introduce a New Clean Air Act

We want the deadline for the UK to achieve its existing target of reducing pollution from 2040 to 2030 at the very latest to be brought forward, and to use this as a stepping stone towards achieving WHO guideline levels of air pollution as soon as possible.

Cleaning up the UK’s toxic air will not only protect the health of UK citizens but also makes financial sense. The Royal College of Physicians has estimated that the social cost of air pollution to individuals and the health service is over £20bn annually in the UK.    

8. Step Up the Phaseout of Internal Combustion Engines

We want the UK government to add to its mandate to deliver the phase out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, by providing national-level policies, measures and investment that provide help and support for people and businesses to move to cleaner forms of transport.

The progress of the phase out can’t be hindered by unnecessary loopholes (e.g. exemptions for non-plug-in hybrid vehicles, e-fuels, or small volume manufacturers) that would allow polluting cars and vans to continue to enter the market beyond 2030. Exhaust emissions from road transport were responsible for almost 22% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.   

9. Protect 30% of UK Land and Waters by 2030

We want the UK to commit to at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and 30% of coastal and marine areas being effectively conserved and managed by 2030, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services.

The 30x30 initiative will create an enduring positive impact on both nature and people, while also representing a crucial nature-based solution in the fight against climate change.

10. Deliver a strong and comprehensive legal framework for agriculture

We want the UK government to deliver a strong agricultural framework outside the EU that prioritises environmental protection.

As well as increasing the economic resilience of the UK, the implementation of these changes would also serve to bring about a more sustainable farming sector with significant benefits for food security, climate change and the future of the natural environment.

We believe that the next government should take legislative steps to prioritise resilient, species-rich ecosystems, a safe and stable climate, an environment that is free of toxins, with clean air, soil and water – underpinned by strong environmental justice and laws.

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